In his appearance before the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club, former Saints right tackle and rookie play-by-play man Zach Strief answered the question before it was even asked.
“People ask, ‘Are we going to win the Super Bowl?’ I would say, ‘Let’s see the starting lineup in Week 15, and I will tell you if we have a shot at winning the Super Bowl.’ If we carry those starters through the regular season, this team is completely capable of doing that,” Strief said.
The 2017 Saints provided a glimpse of how capable they are. In a stretch of seven straight wins early in the season, the Saints won each game by eight or more points.
In those seven games, New Orleans allowed a total of 100 points, and that included a 52-38 win at home over the Detroit Lions.
All the pieces are in place for the Saints to make a Super Bowl run.
“I think this is one of the more talented and maybe the deepest roster that Coach Payton has ever had,” said Strief.
“And, I think that speaks volumes about the possibility for success.”
In Los Angeles, the Rams are saying nearly the same thing. And, so are the Vikings, and so are the Eagles.
All three appear on the Saints’ schedule in 2018. All three have franchise quarterbacks, surrounded by talented rosters.
But, the NFL is truly a one-year league. In 2017 in the NFC, only the Atlanta Falcons repeated as a playoff team from the year before. In 2016, only the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers repeated as playoff teams in the NFC.
As Strief said, injuries can often determine how deep a run a team can make in the playoffs. And, then, there’s just plain luck.
In a regular-season win over the Redskins, quarterback Kirk Cousins miscommunicated with a receiver. The receiver ran toward the post, Cousins threw the out route. He wasn’t trying to ground the ball but nonetheless was flagged for it. That play, in a key stretch of the game, pushed Washington out of field goal range.
Months later in Minnesota in the playoffs, the Saints were on the other end of one of the most improbable touchdowns in NFL history.
Last season, the Saints caught fire in Week 3 and used that momentum to win the NFC South for the first time since 2011. Team chemistry seemed to be terrific, and, of course, one of the greatest drafts in NFL history produced the rookie of the year on defense (Marshon Lattimore) and on offense (Alvin Kamara).
The Saints organization sure is behaving like Super Bowl contenders. The club has already traded its first-round pick and third-round pick in 2019 to acquire rookie end Marcus Davenport and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater is an intriguing prospect. He was the starter in Minnesota before suffering a severe knee injury in practice two years ago. He could very well be the successor to Drew Brees. In the meantime, he is valuable insurance.
The Saints’ offseason mantra was “prove them right.”
The dreaded news media has showered the black and gold with plaudits for eight months.
Time to find out if the Saints can deliver.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at email@example.com.